The prototypes have already been likened to a golden cheese-grater, a plutocrat's loofah or even a bling wastepaper basket, but come 2012 the London Olympic torch will be virtually guaranteed the distinction of becoming the hottest item on eBay.
Unveiled yesterday to a predictable chorus of unfavourable comparisons it emerged that all 8,000 bearers taking part in next year's cross-Britain relay will be offered the exclusive opportunity to purchase their own individual copy of the beacon they carry.
Starting at around £250 for a limited edition of Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby's flaming symbol of human sporting achievement, the torch is likely to prove a winner in the resale market even if it didn't go down well on internet message boards yesterday.
A torch from the 1948 London Olympics was recently offered for sale for £7,500 while those from other Games command similarly high prices.
While neither of the ultra-fashionable Shoreditch-based design duo were willing to be drawn on a suitable name or price for their torch they said they were honoured to be chosen for the task after beating 500 rivals.
Highlighting the 800mm beacon's hi-tech aluminum casing and laser technology, and its mesh of 8,000 holes – one for each runner and mile of the journey next summer – they said they wanted to take the Olympic symbol to new levels.
"We wanted to make the most of pioneering production technologies and to demonstrate the industrial excellence available in the UK – it's a torch for our time," said Osgerby.
Included in the design brief was creating something portable and safe enough to be held by the many young torchbearers while also allowing the flame to be visible to spectators. The 800g finished product is triangular, reflecting the three times that London has hosted the Games – in 1908, 1948 and 2012 – as well as representing the Olympic values of respect, excellence and friendship, organisers said. But it emerged one ideal originally envisaged by the London hosts has already been snuffed out after Olympic sponsor EDF Energy said its prototype low-carbon fuel made of a miscanthus or elephant grass briquette would not be ready in time.
A mixture of propane and butane gas will now be used to fire the torch. It is an embarrassment for London 2012 which included the boast of an environmentally friendly torch in its claim to stage the greenest ever Olympics. Shaun McCarthy, chairman of the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, which monitors the green claims of the Games, said the failure to deliver was an embarrassment.
"The promise of a low-carbon torch was made in 2007 and so the excuse of 'We ran out of time' is not acceptable," he said. "The carbon contribution of this initiative may have been relatively small, but the power of the message would have been highly significant."
The torch relay will begin at Land's End next May, arriving at the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony on 27 July. It will criss-cross the country for 70 days. Although the name of the final torchbearer is being kept secret, the favourite to complete the last leg is five-times gold medal-winning rower Sir Steve Redgrave.
following text from the official london 2012 press release:
Earlier this year, east london-based designers Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby
won the competitive tender run by LOCOG and the design council that set the
brief to design a torch that reflects the celebratory nature of the olympic torch relay
and the olympic games.
8,000 torchbearers and their community. the torch's triangular, gold-coloured form is
perforated by 8,000 circles representing the 8,000 torchbearers and their stories of
personal achievement and/or contribution to their local community which will be
celebrated during the london 2012 olympic torch relay.
sebastian coe, chair of LOCOG, said: 'the torch that carries the olympic flame during
the olympic torch relay is one of the most recognisable and significant symbols of
an olympic games. members of the public right across the UK are busy nominating
inspiring people to be torchbearers and i am thrilled we have a beautifully designed,
engineered and crafted torch for them to carry.
'integral to the design are the 8,000 circles, a lasting representation of the torchbearer
stories of personal achievement or contribution to their local community that will be
showcased with every step of the relay.’
edward barber and jay osgerby explained: 'ever since we were young we have loved
the olympic games. as designers, this is quite simply the best project going:
to design an icon for the games. we've wanted to be involved since july 2005
when we were celebrating winning the bid with the rest of the UK.
'we have worked hard to develop a torch that celebrates the relay, and reflects the
passion for london and the olympic games. we wanted to make the most of pioneering
production technologies and to demonstrate the industrial excellence available in the UK
– it's a torch for our time. this is our opportunity to represent the uk, in design terms,
and we are incredibly proud to be doing so.'
design: the torch is made up of four key pieces – an inner and an outer aluminium
alloy skin perforated by 8,000 circles that are held in place by a cast top piece and base.
representing the inspirational stories of the 8,000 torchbearers who will carry
the olympic flame, the circles which run the length of the body of the torch also
offer a unique level of transparency – allowing people to see right to the heart
of the torch and view the burner system which will keep the olympic flame alive.
the circles also help ensure heat is quickly dissipated without being conducted
down the handle and providing extra grip. london 2012 partner, BMW, have provided
the use of their climatic testing facility for the torch to be tested.
shape: the torch stands 800mm high. its triangular form has been inspired
by the identification of a multiples of three that are found across the vision
and delivery of the olympic games:
• the three olympic values of respect, excellence and friendship
• the three words that make the olympic motto – faster, higher, stronger
• the fact the UK has hosted the olympic games three times – in 1908, 1948 and 2012
• the vision for the london 2012 olympic games to combine three strands of work – sport, education and culture.
the torch weighs 800g. responding to a call in the brief to recognise the fact that more
than half of the london 2012 torchbearers are expected to be young people
aged between 12 and 24, several design features have been implemented to produce
what will be one of the lighter olympic torches. crafted from an aluminium alloy,
developed for the aerospace and automotive industry that is lightweight whilst having
good tensile strength and excellent heat resistance, the 8,000 circles also reduce
the weight of the final design whilst ensuring strength isn’t compromised.
the gold colour finish embraces the qualities of the olympic flame – the brightness
and the warmth of the light that it shines. the 8,000 torches will have a gold-coloured
finish that delivers an aesthetic beauty whilst having the ability to withstand the
temperature of the olympic flame.